BAGHDAD — Civilians stumbled upon nine headless bodies in a field about 60 miles north of Baghdad on Tuesday.
The nine, including three women, had been targeted because they were suspected of being part of a local awakening council, or concerned local citizens group, that was working with U.S. troops to fight al Qaida in Iraq, said a police officer involved in the investigation.
The officer said the nine headless bodies were found with two DVDs showing one of the dead men confessing that he was a member of an awakening council and another man refusing to confess.
Another official said police also found 10 heads and nine bodies with their heads intact in the same area. The nine people whose corpses were intact had been shot in their chests and were killed more recently than the 10 people whose heads were discovered, police said.
It's unclear whether the killings are connected or how many people were killed and beheaded. The police official, who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak, couldn't confirm that nine headless bodies also were found, and the U.S. military couldn't verify the reports.
The discoveries reportedly were made in Diyala, one of the bloodiest provinces in Iraq, where the Sunni Muslim extremist group al Qaida in Iraq, Shiite militias and Kurdish militias are active. On Jan. 17, a bombing killed 12 people in Diyala, and unidentified and headless bodies are found sporadically in the province.
The concerned local citizens group members, who file for compensation after military raids or attacks on behalf of members of the community, apparently were kidnapped after they left an Iraqi army base five days ago. They'd complained last week that al Qaida in Iraq had threatened them, the investigating officer said.
Al Qaida in Iraq declared in December that it had a group of fighters dedicated to attacking members of the Sahwa, or awakening councils. Since then, a series of attacks have targeted Sahwa members or leaders in Iraq. The groups are mostly Sunni, and many of their members are former insurgents.
The corpses underscore the power al Qaida still has in northern Iraq, especially in Diyala and Nineveh provinces.
Last week, a bombing killed at least 60 people and brought down a building in Mosul, and the police chief was assassinated. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said he'd reinforce Iraqi troops and added that the battle in Mosul would be "decisive," although the U.S. military dismissed much of that as posturing.
Also Tuesday, a car bomb in Mosul targeted a U.S. military convoy, killing an Iraqi civilian and wounding 15, and a police commander's convoy was attacked north of Fallujah in Anbar province. Police said members of an awakening council who'd been absorbed into the police force followed the attackers, rounded up 20 suspects and executed them.
In Fallujah, two truck drivers were kidnapped and their hands were bound. The kidnappers dumped the gravel they were transporting on top of them to kill them.
On the road between Tikrit and Baghdad, gunmen attacked three employees of a local Iraqi TV station. Two men died and a woman was seriously injured.
In Baghdad, five roadside bombs detonated throughout the capital, injuring 31 people, including five U.S. soldiers and seven members of the Iraqi security forces.
(Al Jubouri is a McClatchy special correspondent.)